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Alex Salmond

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Alex Salmond MP

Alexander "Alex" Elliot Anderson Salmond (born December 31 1954 in Linlithgow, West Lothian) is the leader (or National Convenor) of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He is currently serving his second term as leader (as of May 2005), taking over from John Swinney. He had previously been leader between 1990 and 2000.


Contents

Education & Early Career

Salmond was educated at Linlithgow Academy and the University of St Andrews, where he graduated with an MA in Economics and History. He was first employed as an Assistant Economist in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland from 1978. In 1980, he joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, for whom he worked until 1987, first as an Assistant Economist, then as the Oil Economist and latterly as Royal Bank Economist. While with the Royal Bank, he wrote and broadcast extensively for both domestic and international outlets. He also contributed regularly to oil and energy conferences, and in 1983 devised the “Royal Bank / BBC Oil Index” which continues monthly publication to this day.

Salmond became active in the SNP when he joined its student wing in 1973 whilst a student at St Andrews. A naturally inclined left-winger at the time he claims he joined as he had considerable doubts as to whether or not the Labour Party would deliver a devolved Scottish Assembly.

He started life as a committed left-winger inside the SNP and was a leading member of the socialist republican faction inside the SNP, the 79 Group. He was along with other 79 Group leaders expelled from the SNP when they became a proscribed organisation within the party.


Alex Salmond MP

Salmond successfully appealed this expulsion and in 1987 he was elected MP for Banff and Buchan. He was at this time still viewed as being firmly on the left of the party and had become a key ally of Jim Sillars, who joined him in the British House of Commons when he won a by-election for the seat of Glasgow Govan in 1988.

When Gordon Wilson stood down as SNP leader in 1990, Salmond decided to contest the leadership. His only opponent was Margaret Ewing, whom Sillars decided to support. This caused considerable consternation amongst the SNP left as the two main left leaders were on opposing sides. It was also around this time that Salmond and Sillars drifted apart. However, Salmond won the leadership election.

His first test as leader was the 1992 General Election, with the SNP having high hopes of making a real electoral breakthrough. However the party, whilst considerably increasing its vote, failed to win a great number of seats, with Sillars losing his, causing him to famously describe the Scottish people as '90 minute patriots'. This comment caused the political friendship between Salmond and Sillars to be terminated, and Sillars became a vocal critic of Salmond's style of leadership.

The SNP managed to increase its number of MPs from four to six in the 1997 General Election, which saw the return of the first Labour Government in the United Kingdom for 18 years. This also brought prospects of a devolved Scottish Parliament closer.

Salmond signed the SNP up to supporting the campaign for devolution and along with Scottish Labour leader Donald Dewar he played an active part in securing the victory for devolution in the 1997 Referendum. However, many hard line fundamentalists in the SNP objected to committing the party to campaigning for devolution, something they felt was way short of Scottish independence.

Several years as party leader earned him an unusually high profile for an SNP politician in the London-based media, leading to invites to take part in light entertainment programmes such as Have I Got News For You and Call My Bluff. His appearances on the latter, and more specifically the fact that he held on to one of the famous 'bluff' cards that are used as props in the show as a souvenir, proved to have an unexpected significance in the run-up to the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. To counter his frustration at having to sit in silence through an after-dinner speech by Tony Blair, he held up the card when the Prime Minister reached the point of questioning Scotland's prospects should independence happen, to which a surprised Mr. Blair reacted with some hurried ad-libbing. In 1998, he won the Spectator Award for Political strategist of the Year. Throughout his time in politics, he has maintained his interest in horse racing, writing a weekly column for The Scotsman and appearing a number of times on Channel 4’s "The Morning Line".


Exile & Return

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Salmond became SNP leader for the second time in August 2004

Salmond was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and was one of its highest profile members. He stood down as SNP leader in 2000 and was replaced by his preferred successor John Swinney, who defeated Alex Neil for the post.

His leadership was characterised by a moderation of his earlier left-wing views and by him firmly placing the SNP into a gradualist strategy.

In 2001 he quit the Scottish Parliament to lead the SNP Group at Westminster, a role he still occupies. During the prolonged parliamentary debates in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he voiced strong opposition to Britain's participation. In the aftermath of the war, he lent support to the initiative of Adam Price, an MP from the SNP's sister party Plaid Cymru, to attempt to impeach Tony Blair for his conduct over the Iraq issue. He has gone further than many anti-war politicians by claiming that Mr. Blair's statements on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been consciously intended to deceive the public.

In a surprise announcement on July 15 2004, Alex Salmond announced that he would be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the leadership of the SNP (which arose because of John Swinney's resignation from the leadership three weeks previously). Salmond had previously said that he definitely would not be a candidate in that election, even claiming in jest that if he was elected he would resign. In the postal ballot of all members he went on to receive over 75% of the votes cast, placing him well ahead of his nearest rival Roseanna Cunningham.

Although he was re-elected in the 2005 Westminster election, Mr. Salmond has made clear his intention to return to the Scottish Parliament at the 2007 elections, at which point he would take over the role of SNP group leader in that body from his deputy Nicola Sturgeon.

External links


Preceded by:
Gordon Wilson
Leader of the Scottish National Party (1st term)
1990-2000
Followed by:
John Swinney
Preceded by:
John Swinney
Leader of the Scottish National Party (2nd term)
2004-
Followed by:
Current incumbent
sv:Alex Salmond

fr:Alex Salmond

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